In part, this is due to cost sensitivity: employers want to increase the spatial efficiency of workplaces by reducing the area per employee, but they know that this cannot happen at the expense of comfort. The workplace environment is a primary trigger for occupants' physical and psychological well-being, and the complex nature of work means that psychological factors such as concentration, mood, motivation, and engagement are critical to productivity.
As a result, greater well-being correlates with better business performance. Employee comfort in the workplace can have a clear impact on the bottom line, and light – long seen simply as a tool to enable vision and extend the working day, rather than as a creative resource capable of delivering a comfortable, flexible and productive environment – has a powerful part to play.
It's no surprise that light is so important. The human race evolved over millions of years out in the open. Our existence and our internal rhythms were shaped by light whose intensity and spectral content varied according to daily and seasonal cycles. But now we spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors, where light levels are typically less than a quarter of the 2,000 lux we can expect outdoors on even the dullest of days. On a bright day with few clouds, sunlight delivers a huge 100,000 lux. High-quality light and good lighting design can, therefore, make a huge difference to the workplace.
Seeing the light
The first and most obvious contribution light makes to our well-being is in creating optimal conditions for vision. It is commonly said that 80 percent of the information reaching our brains comes from our sight, and it's clear that prolonged close-proximity work, often in front of a screen, causes eye strain and mental fatigue. But effective lighting can create the optimal conditions for vision to do its job. What is optimal is not the same for everyone though; as we grow older, for example, our eyes need more light and we become more sensitive to glare.
Light also benefits our mood, levels of alertness and our concentration, according to scientists. In sunnier rooms, for example, patients feel less pain and stress and use up to 22 percent less pain-relieving medication per hour. Sunlight helps psychiatric patients to feel less depressed, sleep more soundly, and spend less time in hospital. Higher levels of illuminance also bring greater alertness and better performance.
Then there's sleep. In the modern world, we get an average of six-and-a-half hours sleep a night rather than the eight hours we need. This sleep deprivation makes us tired, which in turn can lead to stress, poor judgment, attention deficit, and impaired memory and concentration. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to medical effects such as obesity and reduced immunity, and even type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Light is one of the primary regulators of our sleep-wake cycle. In the morning, light wakes us up by inhibiting production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and in the evening, as light fades, melatonin levels rise again. In bright daylight, we feel active and positive, and when night-time comes we are ready to sleep well, which restores both physical and mental functions. Given the role of light in our lives, it's clear that lighting design has an important role in enabling employees to be at their best.
This is where tunable white technology comes in. The term 'tunable white' describes the mixing of multiple channels of LED white light to vary the color temperature – from warm to cool tones – of white-light output from a luminaire. This adjustability can be achieved in different ways, but the key point is that tunable white enables designers to deliver on the many potential benefits of light in the workplace.
Philips tunable white solutions deliver on this promise. Across the range, there are three key features – dynamics, scene set, and personal control – that allow lighting professionals, building owners, and tenant businesses to create different ambiances in office, school, retail and healthcare environments.